Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Is it People Food or Dog Food?

I often hear from clients that they don't want to give their dogs people food.  What that usually means is that the don't want their dog to beg from them or be annoying while they are eating.
This is a perfectly reasonable thing to want from your pet dog!  But what if I told you that you could, and should, give your dog (some) people food, and that you could still eat your meals in peace?  I give my dog people food all the time!  Here are some reasons why you should too:

1) It's Yummy

For training, I recommend that, at least in class sessions, people bring the most tasty food they can find.  There are a lot of good dog treats out there,  but most of them pale in comparison to meat, cheese or fish.  These are smelly, flavourful, and your dog will work hard to get them!  

2) It Doesn't Have to Create a Monster

If you don't want your dog to bother you while you're eating, I don't blame you!  There are many ways around that.  You can train your dog to lie on a mat while you eat.  You can feed them their own food in another room.  You can gate them out of your kitchen.  Most importantly, don't feed them from your plate or otherwise reward begging behaviour.  Once your dog thinks it might pay off, even once, the behaviour will be hard to change.  

3) It Won't Create Problems (Necessarily)

I once had a student who said that after they took a class with me, their dog stole a chicken off of a counter, and it was because I had asked them to use real food rewards in class.  The fact is that dogs have been surviving as scavengers and garbage eaters for thousands of years. If something smells like food, and they are determined, they will go for it, no matter if *you* have given it to them before or not.  Set up the environment for success by not leaving food around for them to scavenge, and they won't practice bad habits. 

4) It's (Usually) Healthy

Some dog treats are healthy, no doubt about it.  They have primarily meat or single ingredients, minimal preservatives and no added colour or sugar.  Those treats are awesome and you should use them.  But you know what else is healthy?  Cooked beef.  Or chicken.  That's as natural as you can get!  Cheese can be high in fat, but in moderation it is great.  Hot dogs are probably the least healthy people food treat I use, but even then you can get natural ones and low sodium ones.  

5) It's Economical

Buying up cheaper cuts of meat or cheese on sale and chopping into small pieces can actually work out to be cheaper than store-bought treats.  There is some extra labour, and there's no denying that the convenience of dog treats is a winner (I should know, I buy a lot of them) but overall, dog food =/ cheaper food.  

6) Food is Food 

At the end of the day, food is food.  Your dog doesn't know that cheese is for people and the wet stuff in a tin is for dogs.  After all, what are the ingredients in high quality dog food or treats?  Meat, veggies and fruits...people food!  Teach your dog good manners around *all* kinds of food, and you'll both be winners.  

Marlo lies on his mat with a bowl of turkey and a bowl of kibbles...they're both food to him
 and he has been trained to behave politely around both! 
*Note!  There are definitely some "people food" items that your dog should not eat, because they may be dangerous.  Before sharing anything with your dog, or using food packaged for people during training, check the ingredient list carefully. The ASPCA's List of Foods Toxic for Dogs

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